29 Sept 2022

Then & Now: O captain! My 'Limerick' captain!

Then & Now: O captain!  My 'Limerick' captain!

Limerick Commercials in 1887 who were both Limerick's first All-Ireland winning team and the first winners of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship!

LIMERICK SENIOR All-Ireland winning captains are few in number (but increasing) but highly thought of in their own locality and around the county.
Over the years in this column, I have featured all the hurling captains apart from Declan Hannon from Adare who currently has raised the MacCarthy Cup on four occasions.
The others featured have been Eamon Grimes, Mick Mackey twice captain, Timmy Ryan, Bob Mc Conkey, Willie Hough, and Denis Grimes. In football only Denis Corbett and Con Fitzgerald have raised the All-Ireland football cup to bring Limerick’s total All-Irelands to 13. This week we look at Denis Corbett's brief career.
Denis Corbett was a native of Skehanagh, Ardagh and he had the distinction of being captain of the Limerick Commercials club who won the first All Ireland football championship in 1887. He was a farmer's son, born in 1863, and his first day in Ardagh National School was April 27, 1868, when he was five years old. He left after completing sixth class in 1873 and attended Grange Macs School in Kilcolman for two more years. He worked in Cannock's Shop in Limerick being employed as a buyer.
He was a member of Shannon Rowing Club and interested in Gaelic games. He used to cycle from Limerick to Ardagh to play football with the local team, and cycle back to Limerick afterwards. He was a member of the Ardagh team beaten by Newbridge in the county final. Commercials beat St Michael's in the city final after a replay. They lost the first match but objected and were awarded a replay. St Michael's were forced to drop five of their original players, because they had played rugby. Denis was nominated captain of Limerick Commercials who contested the first All Ireland Football Championship played under Gaelic rules in 1887.
He played in goals for Commercials, and they played 6 matches on the way to win the All Ireland. In the first round they defeated Dowdstown of Meath at Elm Park Dublin by 3-2 to 0-2. In the second round they defeated Kilmacow of Kilkenny at Bansha, in a replay after a 1-10 draw three weeks previous. In the semi-final played at Bohermore on March 11, 1888 Commercials beat Templemore of Tipperary by 4-8 to 0-4. This was a replay as Limerick lost the first match and objected and received a second chance.
The final was played at Clonskeagh, Dublin on April 29, and Limerick travelled to Dublin the previous evening by train and to the match by horse tram. Their opponents were Young Irelands Dundalk representing Louth. John Cullinane, Bansha was the referee, and the gate receipts were £300. Louth led by 0-3 to 0-1 at half-time but Limerick were convincing winners by 1-4 to 0-3 at the final whistle. Louth objected but it failed, and Limerick celebrated a historic first title.
A press report of that great final will be read with interest: "To Din Corbett the Commercials owe a good deal for Sunday's victory, as his splendid play in goals, together with his admirable generalship contributed largely towards it".
The Limerick players were Denis Corbett goal, Timothy Fitzgibbon, William Gunning, Richard Breen, John Hyland, Thomas Mc Namara, William J Spain, Patrick J Corbett, Michael Slattery, Jeremiah R Kennedy, Michael Casey, James Mulqueen, Malachi O'Brien, Patrick Kelly, Timothy Kennedy, Philip Keating, William Cleary, Robert Normoyle, Patrick Reeves, Thomas Keating, Thomas Mc Mahon. Others who participated included Ned Nicholas, Edward Casey, Richard O'Brien, James Purcell, Thomas O'Loughlin, and Thomas Lynch. The team did not receive their medals for over a quarter of a century after the final was played.
Denis left soon after for Chicago where he continued his football career, winning a further eight medals. Little is known of his time spent there. He died on August 28, 1938, aged 75 years, and he is buried abroad. His medals were distributed to family following the reading of his will. A plaque dedicated to his memory can be seen on the dressing room wall of the sports field in Ardagh erected by the St Kieran's GAA club. If any reader has additional information about Denis, I would be grateful if they would contact me by email on

Thanks for the service
BILLY LEE from Newcastle West stepped down as Limerick senior football manager on Tuesday August 23, after six years of outstanding service. It came as a shock to those outside of his family circle, but increased work and travel commitments plus on average 35 hours per week with Limerick made it tricky for him to continue.
It must have been a very difficult decision to make as he is so passionate about football but his dedication and commitment to club and county will be remembered well into the future.
The Lee family home is based in the centre of the town and their involvement to the successes of their club Newcastle West has been central over the decades. Like a neighbour’s child you would be watching their progress and achievements with interest. Parents Mary and Jimmy loved their sport, so it was inevitable that it would rub off on their children. Jimmy who only died last month, big passion was horse racing, and his nephew is Billy Lee the well-known jockey. Mary loved her football and was one of the great supporters of the club and county. She was famous for her hospitality and handing out hard sweets at matches and was also secretary of the club.

Daughter Margaret has served on committees and was secretary of the club and is the present chairperson. Joe has represented Limerick in football and being in charge of successful club teams. Jimmy is the present manager of the Newcastle West senior football team county champions in 2021.
Billy has also represented Limerick in football and has held various county roles from underage level up to his role as manager of the senior team. A very level headed and astute person he put the foundations in place with his management team. Step by step he gradually raised Limerick's standing from ranked 33 and Division 4 to Division 2 and the top 16 for next year.
The Lee sporting story continues with their children involved in Gaelic games, camogie and ladies’ football with club and county. Billy has bowed out at the top of county management after a very successful last few years that has seen Limerick promoted to Division 2 of the National Football League for 2023. It was no easy task as Limerick footballers have always lived in the shadow of their hurling counterparts.
We thank Billy for his unselfish devotion and wish him and his family continued success in the future. No doubt he will be patrolling the sidelines in some capacity in the near future.

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